Television

South gets ready to greet three channels in April

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MUMBAI: The 2005 calendar year is yet to complete six months, but the Southern television arena will have four more channels by April. And out of these four channels, three are dedicated to Malayalam.

After launching Kiran TV in Malayalam in January this year, Sun is all set to unveil its fourth Telugu channel in Aditya on the Telugu New Year 9 April. In Malayalam, joining Kiran in the fray, are Asianet's third channel Asianet Plus which will be launched in the third week of April and Amrita TV that will kick off its campaign on 14 April.

Asianet is responding to Sun Network's aggressive posture with Asianet Plus. Asianet wanted to launch a movie and music channel in January itself, to prevent Kiran from getting a foothold, but apparently postponed the plans to come up with a challenging programming strategy. Asianet COO Mohan Nair is looking after the operations of Asianet Plus also.

Now the channel comes with a mix of music, movies and lifestyle programming, targeting the youth segment. According to Nair, Asianet Plus will be packaged on the lines of music channels MTV and Channel [V] with additional programming in fashion and movies. The channel is also locking horns with Southern Spice Music (SS Music), as it is going to telecast musical shows in languages other than Malayalam. According to Nair, the channel will air music programmes in the South Indian languages as well as in Hindi too. On the movie front, it will telecast one movie per day.

Nair says the channel is being launched with a flanking strategy in mind. The channel will have a fresh programming line up, but will get some shows from the main channel as well. "Being a new 24-hour channel, we will not be able to bring 100 per cent fresh programming. So there will be a few shows from the main channel too," Nair says adding that, "We want to make sure that the main channel won't be affected by Asianet Plus in any way. Plus will have a different programming strategy which won't bring down the main channel."

Speaking about the primetime packaging, Nair says the primetime band will be 6 PM to 11 PM. "Though the channel will try to target different segments of the audience throughout the day, it will lay special stress on this particular time band," he says.

The channel will also target its foreign viewers with some special programmes. "The channel will be available in the Middle East, USA and the UK and we will try to put certain shows targeting those areas in their convenient time schedules," Nair says.

The ad rates of Asianet Plus will be lower than that of the main channel. Though the channel hasn't officially announced its launch date, indications are that it will be in the third week of April.

Amrita TV is launching on 14 April with a mega event - the First Amrita Film Fraternity Awards. The 24-hour news and entertainment is looking at the competition differently.

"We have no intention of dishing out light entertainment. We are positioning ourselves as a channel that provides value-based programming. We will attempt all formats, but the treatment will be different. We want to provide a mix of entertainment and education," says Amrita TV executive director Suresh Narayan.

On the news segment, the channel is stressing the live factor. Narayan says the channel has set up studios in Delhi, Kozhikode and Kochi for this purpose. "From these studios, we will live telecast our news bulletins," he says.

So, with channels mushrooming, will the Kerala TV market be able to hold the load? According to industry estimates, the Rs 1 billion-strong market is expected to go up by 20 per cent this year. "Every year, it is being stretched by 10 per cent. But this year, with the entry of new channels, the industry is expecting an increase of 20 per cent," says an industry analyst.

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